Thursday, October 25, 2007

there's just something about him

my son watching the sunset from our balcony

There's something about my eldest son that makes my knees buckle. We mothers think that our love will be equal for all of our children. But what we don't realize is that even though our love will be equal in quantity, it may not be equal in kind. My boys are only 18 months apart and have grown up as best friends. While my youngest is headstrong, bizarrely intellegent and has always been the most difficult to parent effectively, my love for him almost borders on admiration, on me feeling mystified that he came out of my body at all.

My eldest is another story. His quiet sweetness and calm kill you. I recently went to parent-teacher conferences at their new school, and left elated with their straight A report cards. I regularly feel like I've won the lottery. But when the teacher said that the girls are flocked around my eldest son "like a herd of gazelles", my initial chuckle was soon replaced by the sound of my heart lurching. My eldest son is a very beautiful boy, and I can only feel a small bit of relief that his kind of beauty didn't fall on a daughter. I know he basically does not know what to make of his beauty and his glow. People orbit him. His cell phone rings and he often doesn't answer. He receives invitations to parties and forgets about it until the party is over. He will befriend and be the lab partner of any kid in class, even the most outcasted. He prefers reading an atlas to his playstation. He loves to ski and hike, because he revels in the quiet and peace he finds in the mountains. He loves to paint like his mother. He loves dogs and fishing. Even though he is my child, I see him at times as a magical creature from another time, a kind of unaware Adonis dreaming inside of his own mind.

When my eldest was 6 he severed a tendon in his right forefinger and went through three painful surgeries and long term physical therapy to correct it. He came out of those surgeries with a fully functional finger, but each time I see those scars, I tear up. Even though his life seems somehow charmed, each small challenge he faces breaks my heart. He recently made the basketball team tryouts, and yesterday when he came home from practice his doe eyes welled up with tears. I bit down very hard on my lip to not tear up as well, and managed to get him to talk about what was wrong. Through my horrible visions of mean teachers and kids or worse, he said he was just too tired to go to practice any more... all they do is run. He basically will have to decide himself if he can fit basketball into his busy study schedule, and even this nothing, this small hurdle of growing up, made me cringe.

I've always placed independence and responsibility high on my list of parenting tactics, so why is it still so hard with this boy? Will it ever become easier to see him upset, see him frustrated, see him orbited by so many? Why do I look at my youngest son and just know that he can handle it? Just know that his tantrums and fist pounding and braid pulling make life somehow easier for him? My eldest son is a joy, a jewel, a gift. There's just something about him.


Carol said...

SIGH. This is absolutely beautiful -- stunningly, deeply beautiful.

You are both lucky to be connected!


anno said...

You always write about your family with breathtaking tenderness. I think your son had it right when he wrote, "Io vengo da una famiglia speciale..."

Jennifer said...

This is such an honest post. God, sometimes your posts are so honest and heartfelt that I feel a little funny reading them, like you are revealing a little bit of me by revealing so much of you.

I think all (or at least most) families have a little of what you describe. I know there was a big dose of it in mine growing up. My sister was the beautiful, quiet one. High school was hard for her (and for my parents too, just like you for your older son) but she managed to keep a bit of that endearing fragility while growing up, and she's really not as fragile as she seems.

I guess I was the one more like your younger son: tough and self-sufficient. Go give him a hug too.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Oh, WHAT a beautiful post, Jennifer. I'm teary now myself. How blessed you are to have both of your very different boys.

Interestingly, my exchange daughters and the other international students that I have mentored, also complained about the emphasis on running in American sports teams/practices. My German daughter complained that they never have any fun here at practice. It's different.

Rebecca said...

Love this post, Jennifer.

It's odd isn't it? these different ways of feeling love for our children?

"feeling mystified that he came out of my body at all."

This is exactly how I feel about my twins - who are insanely energetic and love running, jumping, climbing....I often look at them and think 'what...where?

My eldest is quieter and more vulnerable....and I worry about him more.

My youngest is still a bit of a mystery...